The initial signing of Michael Nylander had the makings of everything the Caps looked for on paper, but went against virtually most reports of GM George McPhee's stance of taking on long term contracts to players over 30.
Nylander at the age of 34 signed a 4 Yr $19.5M deal with a no trade clause in 2007 which years earlier (a no trade clause) was denied to Peter Bondra. All the pieces for a potential disaster in the making were set to occur. For a team with aspirations of becoming Stanley Cup Champion, it's Nylander's salary cap hit impacting personnel moves that's proving the most devastating.
It's not the player or agent's fault for getting the most money over the most number of years during contract negotiations. The Caps earned the right to another bad contract the hard way and signed the deal themselves. Two years into Nylander's contract it's easy to see the disappointment on both sides.
The contract situation should have been resolved well before the draft and free agency period. Now the Caps have let another offseason year go by with a significantly high salary cap hit that's hand cuffing potential roster moves.
The Solution: Take Action Like Dan Snyder
It's time for the Capitals to pull a Dan Snyder move. That's right! Redskins fans probably recall the infamous shot heard 'round the metro area after Laveranues Coles requested a contract extension that put the Santana Moss trade on hold. Snyder let him know that he'd send him a flat screen TV to watch games because he wouldn't be wearing a Redskins uniform the remainder of his contract. Eventually Coles was dealt for Moss.
A similar stance wouldn't hurt with Nylander. If Nylander wants to play hockey in the NHL then he has the power to remove the no trade clause, if he wants to play in Russia he also has the ability to make that happen, and if he refuses to take any action then he can file for retirement because the Caps need to let him know he's not in their plans - at all. The decision would then fall squarely on Nylander's shoulders and force a resolution. Where Nylander's career takes him is up to him, but the Caps shouldn't continue to wait for Nylander to have an epiphany for someone already out of favor with Coach Boudreau.
The Initial Plan
Washington hoped Nylander could be the offensive playmaking center that had been lacking in recent years, as well as provide the leadership for a young team. With Backstrom starting his NHL career in Washington all the pieces made sense with Ovechkin and Backstrom already on board. It's easy to confuse a mentor with true leadership. It didn't take long to find that Nylander's style of play didn't fit well with the players already in place and by the end of the 2009 playoff season he found himself barely playing.
A trade in the previous year's deadline brought the true leader onto the Capitals in Sergei Fedorov. The bond and kindred spirit Backstrom and Nylander share makes perfect sense. Nylander may make Backstrom feel more at ease in his new surroundings but leadership takes a stronger presence that never appeared from the high priced center. Leadership takes on the quality of lifting up a team and moving the players as a group into a certain direction or sometimes taking on a more difficult responsibility of calling players out to perform at a higher level or providing the steadying influence on a young team.
Nylander's salary cap space could have been used to acquire a defensive minded defenseman or to provide help along the top two forward lines. The longer the situation drags out the more embarrassment it becomes on both parties and prevents the Capitals from moving closer to their 2nd Stanley Cup appearance.